Defying party leaders, Republican Todd Akin did not withdraw by Tuesday’s deadline from the Senate race in Missouri, promising – for now – a protracted campaign as his “legitimate rape” comments will be used by opponents to define the GOP.

A second day of pressure from across the GOP hierarchy apparently did little to sway Akin, who vowed to “rush into the gunfire” in a race that nonpartisan analysts said would be increasingly difficult for him to win.

The congressman appeared buoyed by support from top antiabortion leaders and a new poll that showed him very slightly ahead of his opponent, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, even though Missourians overwhelmingly disagreed with his remarks. Akin’s comments over the weekend that pregnancies from “legitimate rape” were “really rare” threw the race into turmoil. He later apologized for having misspoke.

Close of business Tuesday was the deadline under Missouri election laws for candidates to withdraw from the ballot. Akin could still withdraw by Sept. 25 with a court order, according to the Missouri secretary of state’s office.

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